Is This an Interview or a Test?

May 2nd, 2010

I’ll split this post up into two parts, related to hiring for a position and interviewing for a position.

Hiring

When hiring new people for your team, it’s as important that you choose a candidate based on what he or she can bring to the table as it is that a candidate choose your company based on how well the role suits them and their goals. At GrubHub.com, we strive to design interview processes that don’t just test if candidates will be successful or not in the role, but also display what the day-to-day role will be like to the candidate, so that they know this is a job they want to take. The end result is that you should know pretty damn well whether the candidate will be successful in the role, and the candidate will know pretty damn well if this is something they want to do, or a company they want to work for.

How do you design such a process? I suggest that at every step of the process, you design tests that simultaneously test whether a candidate is competent and also display what you’re looking for the candidate to do. For a data entry position, this might be a typing test. For an analyst position, it may be a case study done in Excel. If candidates don’t like to type or use Excel, it will be pretty clear they don’t want the job. If you’re having trouble thinking of a test, perhaps the job requires more definition. It is also important to test this for culture. This can be more difficult, but smart questions around how they like to work can get you most of the way there.

Pretty much every job interview I’ve had, all companies have done is talked to me. They’ve never tested me on what they want me to do in the role. Thinking smart about how you can test candidates instead of just talk to them helps both the employer and the candidate make a more informed decision.

Interviewing

If you are a candidate for a position and you don’t know if there will be a test of some sort or not, refer back to the first half of this post and think of tests you would prepare for the role you’re about to interview for if you were hiring for it. Are you ready for those tests? If not, maybe you should prepare for them. If you are a candidate for a position and feel there may not be an actual test of your skills, there are some ways for you to create your own test and pass it to make the company know you can do the role. In some cases, bringing a portfolio of past work and presenting it is a smart play. For a sales position, asking at the end what are the qualities they are looking for in a salesperson and then proceeding to pitch yourself as having those qualities is smart.

As a candidate for an job opening, you should go into an interview with the goal of getting across a few points about yourself that should make you desired for that position. These points aren’t necessarily the bullet points of the job spec, though that is a good place to start. For example, maybe the position is a senior position you don’t quite have the number of years experience to justify, but you’re confident you have some other qualities those that would have that level of experience don’t have. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that that these qualities you do have are more valuable than the experience of others. Maybe it’s your intelligence or your creativity.

Someone who interviews you for a position should be able to come away from your interview with at least a couple points that clearly define you as a candidate, and you should define those pre-interview instead of hoping they find two that show you in a positive light toward others. It amazes me how few people do this. Think about this. If you are a CEO about to go on the Today Show to talk about your business, would you have a couple things prepared to make sure you get across to that audience? Of course you would, so you should do that for a job interview as well. If you don’t know what the points you’re trying to communicate as a candidate are before an interview, you should postpone the interview until you do.

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